Equivocation (magic)

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For other uses, see Equivocation.

Equivocation is a verbal technique by which a magician appears to have a particular outcome, when in actuality the outcome is one of several alternatives. "In essence equivoque is the process of psychological forcing combined with double entendre."[1]

Magician's Choice[edit]

In a typical example of the Magician's Choice, the magician will ask a spectator to make an apparently free choice among several items. No matter what choices the spectator makes, the magician verbally forces the item which he wanted the spectator to choose.

In a simple example, the performer may deal two cards face down onto the table, requiring for the purposes of his trick that the card on the right be selected. He will ask the spectator to point to one of the cards. If the spectator chooses the card on the left, the performer will say something like "you keep this card, I'll take the remaining card." If the spectator chooses the card on the right, the performer might say "okay, let's use the card you chose." Thus, the choice of which card to use is really made by the magician, hence the term "Magician's Choice."

These basic techniques can be expanded to include practically any number of items, such as an entire deck of cards. For larger sets, items may first be grouped, then split up. The magician must quickly and carefully craft patter to convey the impression that the actions he or she takes with the items truly reflect the intent of the spectator.

Card force[edit]

Equivocation is used to force a card using wording and not sleight of hand. The use of this kind of verbal force in close-up magic apparently offers a subject a free or random choice of card. It is not as common as sleight of hand or other methods.


In another use, a mentalist may perform an apparent act of mind reading by using the "magician's choice" to force a particular envelope that relates to a needed outcome. A mentalist may also force an effect from a certain outcome, as in taking something ordinary and using it to show their magical prowess.


In each of these examples, the effectiveness of the equivocation involves the "information gap" between what the spectator actually knows and what the spectator thinks he knows. In the magician's force the spectator does not know anything about what will happen to the two cards he initially selects. However, the spectator thinks that he is merely making a free choice in an otherwise scripted sequence of moves. In the effect of the prepared envelope, the spectator thinks he knows that the envelope involves a prediction, but he does not actually know that the envelope in fact involves three predictions.

Equivocation tends to lose its effectiveness if repeated in the same context, since the spectator gains more information from one performance to the next, thereby shrinking this information gap. For example, a spectator may wonder why his choice was kept in some cases and discarded in others. Equivocation is a particular form of alternate ending forces where double entendre wording is used and a different pattern of results to questions can be noticed, but its real strength is best realized when augmented with artful psychological techniques.


  1. ^ Goldstein, Philip (1976). A treatise on the under-explored art of equivoque; techniques and applications. p. 2. 
  • Hay, Henry. Cyclopedia of Magic. 1949. ISBN 0-486-21808-2
  • Theodore Annemann. 202 Methods of ForcingSIN B00086ITAO